Ok, we have had quite a bit about Twitter this month, lots of instructions and abstractions. To put it all into context, here is a great story about how it can all come together in an uplifting way!
A number of writers and bloggers who love Spain decided to stop moaning to one another on Facebook, and instead tell the whole world what it is we love about living here. Why we are fed up with the negative press the country and the lives of expats seem to receive at the moment. Without wishing to denigrate any of the very sad individual stories and people involved, the UK press is focussing exclusively on those falling into poverty and being forced to leave Spain – we all know that is NOT the whole story of expats living here.
You only have to look through the pages of Costa Blanca News to see the positive stories of what is going on with expats across our area, enjoying life, helping others, building thriving communities, families and businesses. However, traditional news media in the UK does not want to know about this – so we decided that new media was the way forward instead. Twitter, with its immediacy, trend tracking and easy shareability, was the way to go.
At 12 noon on Monday 25th June, a relatively small group of people starting tweeting at the tops of our voices, using the hashtag “#SpainIs…” This was chosen so that people could literally fill in the gaps, depending on their passions, personalities and interests. A number of us hit up our various networks in the run-up, and then on the stroke of noon we went for it, big time.
It started with about 20 people, sharing positive links, photos and statements about Spain. Little reminders about why we are here, what makes it special for us. Everyone’s themes and content were different, and we shared and RT’d the ones we liked, that we thought our followers would enjoy. Some people shared stuff about their business, but mostly it was little personal stories that we could all relate to – such as:
#SpainIs Best beaches, wonderful weather, fiery flamenco, tasty tapas, fabulous fiestas, majestic mountains, captivating cities, hip hotels (@seville_writer)
#SpainIs one of the few places where the most important thing in life is still to enjoy it. (@VictorRicoReche)
#spainis a wonderful place where so many of us enjoy a better life of sun, culture, sport, wine and food. Viva España! (@WhittingtonN)
#Spainis the best mix between living the life and business – lots of opportunities for international entrepreneurs (@pierrewaters)
#SpainIs where, whatever your age, there’ll always be a little old Spanish man on a street corner telling you you’re ‘guapa’ (@BelindaBeckett)
#SpainIs delicious, home-made food in bars of all kinds, not just in gastropubs and temples of food tourism (@foodbarcelona)
#SpainIs where it’s perfectly acceptable to take a day off work in August to throw tomatoes at strangers (@contessa_canna)
#SpainIs… the country with the most entries in the Michelin starred top hundred restaurants (@grahunt)
#SpainIs… children growing up playing outdoors, with the freedom and safety we had a generation ago in the UK (@casslar, aka your columnist)
You get the idea… everyone had something to contribute, a ‘why are we here’ story or snippet, variously funny, quirky, poignant, practical or personal. These were shared, broadcast, retweeted and messaged far and wide. People called in their contacts, messaged journalists and networkers, collaborated to push the message out online as quickly as possible… as fast as the stream could refresh (no negative tweets about Spanish broadband speeds please!), there were more piling in. The tweets above are only a tiny selection of a glorious wave of positive news about Spain that hit the twittersphere in a few short hours, and if you are new to the scene incidentally, the accounts listed above are all good ones to follow (and if you search #SpainIs… on Twitter you will find hundreds more).
Because it surged. Within half an hour #SpainIs… had hit the top ten trending keywords across the whole of Spain – this is actually amazing considering this includes the entire Spanish language volume of conversation as well. For a while we continued to languish below ‘RIP Michael Jackson’ (third anniversary of Jacko’s moonwalking off his mortal coil) and #Eurovegasgohome – another bit of social action capturing a reaction to Adelson’s planned investment, wherever it is decided it shall be.
Within an hour we knew we had achieved success as the spammers and haters jumped in! The chosen phrase ‘Spain is..’ was deliberately neutral in the sense that it was easy for people to reply negatively and get things off their chest, some of these were more thoughtful and interesting than others, but they didn’t get shared and retweeted in the same way.
In the end only the Minister of Health, Ana Mato, kept #SpainIs… off the top Trending spot – with her announcement about SIP cards for all immigrants, which given that this defines the rules as Spain stands on the brink of an international bailout, was probably pretty big news and fair play. Not to mention, positive. A good reminder that trends are subject to all kinds of influences, and if you want to launch a campaign like this you will be up against whatever occurs and people respond to (and you will probably find it’s the anniversary of somebody famous popping their clogs on most days too).
But it proves that in the age of social media, we can make our own news. We can choose to make a difference, and shout out about what we care about… if it catches the mood it will catch on. It doesn’t take a huge amount of people to start the ball rolling, just a few well-organised tactical and determined ones.
Published in Costa Blanca News, 29th June 2012